December 2008

We are pleased to present our December 2008 newsletter on Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS). We hope it will be an excellent resource on CSS-related news and topics. In addition to CSS case studies, topic discussions and event listings, we are featuring the following new transportation publications from Project for Public Spaces.

The first is A Citizen's Guide to Better Streets: How to Engage Your Transportation Agency, written by Gary Toth and published in collaboration with AARP's "Livable Communities" initiative. Although the book primarily offers citizens guidance on how to influence the transportation planning process, it is also a great resource for transportation professionals interested in planning and designing transportation projects that respect and enhance the surrounding community. The chapters that we find particularly relevant to the CSS community are described in more detail below and cover the following topics: design flexibility, design exceptions, and tort liability.

Additionally, Great Corridors, Great Communities: The Quiet Revolution in Transportation Planning, describes how planning transportation within the context of a larger corridor can benefit both mobility needs and community quality of life. This booklet provides both principles for successful corridor studies and a sample of successful corridor planning efforts throughout the country.

As always we are looking for help in making the most up-to-date and comprehensive tool for CSS professionals, such as yourself. Please contribute any CSS-related case studies, research papers, PowerPoint presentations and even thought pieces that you have found helpful in your work. If you have a great story "from the front line" that would be valuable to highlight, please contact us so we can find out more.

If you have any questions about contributing content, or anything else, please e-mail Renee Espiau at or call (212) 620-5660.

The team
Project for Public Spaces
Bioengineering Group

In this issue:

  • Achieving Flexible Roadway Design
  • Great Corridors, Great Communities: The Quiet Revolution in Transportation Planning
  • New Case Studies on
  • CSS Street Guidelines
  • Street Trees and Safety
  • Obama's Infrastructure Stimulus Plan

Achieving Flexible Roadway Design and FHWA hosted a webinar in September on the importance of flexible design in achieving context sensitive solutions and a variety of methods for finding the flexibility that exists in most roadway design manuals. Due to the overwhelming success of this event (nearly 400 people participated), we thought it would be appropriate to share the chapters from A Citizen's Guide to Better Streets: How to Engage Your Transportation Agency that inspired this event. The first except provides guidance on finding flexibility by selecting appropriate design controls, including functional classification, design speed and design vehicle. Click here to view this chapter. The second piece explores ways to approach design exceptions and tort liability that allow for proactive roadway designs that fit into their context. Click here to view this chapter.

To download the entire Citizen's Guide, please visit

Click here to view the slide presentation and Q&A summary from the webinar on flexible design.

Great Corridors, Great Communities: The Quiet Revolution in Transportation Planning

This publication describes a holistic corridor management approach that is transforming the transportation planning process into one that respects and enhances our natural and human environments by considering multiples modes of transportation, adjacent land uses and the connecting street network. This approach allows transportation professionals to seek solutions that are sensitive to community, environmental, land use and financial contexts. When applied at the corridor level, CSS enables DOTs to view roads in their proper context. Some would remain important for high-speed, long-distance trips, but many other roads should be oriented towards local or residential traffic. Click here to read more.

New Case Studies on

Thanks to the contributions of our website users, we have just uploaded new case studies to the site that exemplify the principles of CSS in planning, design and construction. The most current projects are highlighted below, but please visit for more projects and case studies.

Michigan DOT provided us with background and an update on the Detroit River International Crossing project, in which MDOT is participating in a multi-jurisdictional partnership to increase border crossing capacity and enhance system connectivity to ease the movement of goods and people between the US and Canada. Throughout this effort, the team has worked to actively engage stakeholders, minimize impacts to historic resources and explore alternatives that respect the existing community and land uses.

The West Virginia office of FHWA provided information on 3 new Division of Highways (WVDOH) projects that enhance pedestrian and bicycle connectivity, spur economic development and strengthen partnerships with local partners. The Fairmont Gateway Connector is a multi-phased project that alleviates congestion between downtown Fairmont and I-79 while focusing on treasured community landmarks. The Easley Bridge Replacement transformed the Easley Bridge from a barrier within the community to an asset that connects the Bluefield State College campus and provides a southern entrance to the City of Bluefield. Finally, construction of a new US35 4-lane alignment threatened access to the 45-year old Kanawha Trace Trail, but temporary accommodations and clear communications with stakeholders resulted in minimal construction delays and a final US35 crossing that is in harmony with the natural environment and enhances mobility and safety for trail users.

If you have a great project you would like to share with the CSS community, please click here to contribute.

CSS Street Guidelines

Over the past few years, a number of cities and regions have developed street design guidelines that relate design features and dimensions to the local context. These documents are intended to result in street designs that encourage appropriate traffic speeds and safe travel for a variety of modes. The Context Sensitive Design Manual for the Chatham County-Savannah Metropolitan Region describes the relationship between transportation and land use and provides guidance on street design elements, based on an area's existing context and the functional classification of the street. The Multi-Modal Corridor Typologies and Guidelines for Indianapolis identify 11 different corridor types and offers guidelines for each, including dominant land use, streetscape elements and modes accommodated and discouraged. San Francisco's draft Better Streets Plan focuses on how to encourage social interaction, recreation and ecological health through street design, and the draft Urban Street Design Guidelines for Charlotte (NC) address sustainable development and ways to create great streets that accommodate pedestrians, motorists, bicycles and transit riders. The Institute of Transportation Engineers also produced draft guidance on this topic in its publication Context Sensitive Solutions in Designing Major Urban Thoroughfares for Walkable Communities. Additionally, as reported in the last CSS newsletter, New Jersey and Pennsylvania DOTs jointly published the Smart Transportation Guidebook earlier this year which connects street design guidelines to roadway function and surrounding land uses; this document also addresses the planning process and the role of local communities in creating context-sensitive streets.

A summary and comparison of each of these documents is currently being prepared and will be shared on the CSS website early next year.

Street Trees and Safety

Landscaping and roadside amenities are often proposed to enhance the aesthetic and livability of streets and highways, especially in urban areas, but they can also present safety hazards. To provide practitioners with empirical research on this topic and provide them with methods for safely landscaping streets, FHWA has compiled the following set of resources:

Additionally, visit to request a DVD on "Highway Safety and Trees: The Delicate Balance."

Obama's Infrastructure Stimulus Plan

The incoming Obama administration is working with other national leaders to craft the largest infrastructure investment plan since the interstate era to help stimulate the economy and upgrade our nation's aging physical assets. Many expect billions of public dollars to flow into "shovel ready" public works projects. AASHTO alone has released a list of more than 5,000 such projects, valued at over $65 billion.

A number of organizations and advocates, however, have voiced concern that investing in business-as-usual highway projects will not move us towards a sustainable, 21st-century transportation system or make us more globally competitive. The stimulus plan provides an opportunity to preserve our existing infrastructure through "fix-it-first" maintenance and to build roadway and transit projects that enhance the health of our communities, preserve natural ecosystems and slow climate change. For more perspectives on how the proposed funding can help reduce auto-dependency for many Americans, visit the following websites:

Upcoming CSS Events:

January 11-15, 2009: The Transportation Research Board (TRB) 88th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, to search for sessions on CSS visit:

January 22-24, 2009, 8th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference in Albuquerque, NM,

February 10-11, 2009: Developing Context Sensitive Solutions for California in San Bernadino, CA,

March 18-19, 2009: Developing Context Sensitive Solutions for California in Stockton, CA,

April 19-22, 2009: The 11th Joint Light Rail Conference: Renewal and Growth in Los Angeles, CA,

May 17-21, 2009: The 12th TRB National Transportation Planning Applications Conference in Houston, TX,

September 13-17, 2009: The 2009 International Conference on Ecology & Transportation in Duluth, MN,

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